Monday, November 21, 2016

Except For The Turkey!

This time of year nearly everyone remembers how and why they should be thankful. Especially with Thanksgiving less than a week away. The trick, and the truth, is ; Are we thankful everyday or just on the day, the week, the month we are scheduled to be?
The Holiday is the perfect time to gather those around you that you love and are grateful to have in your life and thank the God of Heaven for all that you've been blessed with. However, did you do that same thing on June 3, or Jan. 17 or Oct. 1? Why would you? Unless those dates have a significance in your life and your family, then why give thanks? My question is why Not?
I had a roof over my head on those days. I had a husband I love, Kids who make my world go around and the blessings that 97% of the world don't have.
My country isn't rocked by bombs exploding overhead. I don't go to the store, in the dark so know one will see me, and come home worried that my small apartment will have been crushed in an explosion by miss ells while I'm gone. I don't worry that I'll have to make two pork rinds and a handful of rice feed my 5 children. I don't pray that the result of my husband getting off work early is going to be a funeral. I don't take my water home to boil it over a fire to keep it from poisoning my family. I don't even have to think about whether or not the power will come on tonight, or the water for my shower will be available tomorrow morning.
My son, who used to live in Africa, jokingly calls these first world problems. I find little humor in that as he grew up for four  years with third world problems, but can't remember them.
Even if I look around at my own community, I don't have to wonder if my kids are going to be able to take off their coats when they come home from school in order to stay warm. I don't think about whether or not my family will sleep in a shelter or the back of our car tonight. I don't look at all the food in the lunch room garbage at the elementary school and figure out if I can sneak some home before the waste company comes to empty the dumpster. These are real world problems, in our communities. Real world problems that won't go away after Thanksgiving is over.
At our house we participate in a thanksgiving every night after we say our family prayers. We do what we call our 'gratefuls'. Each of us in turn thinks of one thing we can be grateful for that day. My boys have all gone through a period of time where they've said things like-'I'm grateful tomorrow is Saturday.' or 'I'm grateful I am the smartest kid in my class'. Sometimes they are kidding, sometimes they are just plain ungrateful. doing this every night helps the whole family keep in mind how good we have it and how blessed we are to be together, live here in the U.S. and have God taking care of us every single day.
For thanksgiving this year, don't forget to be grateful for everything you have and have been given. Even if it's not everything you want. Make a habit of it until the only being not being grateful for being present at Thanksgiving is the Turkey!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Teach me!

Coming from a family of teachers, I' love to teach, almost as much as I love to learn. It has always been my desire to teach in such a way that I deliver the information but the student internalizes the lesson. I've taught adults, teenagers, children and peers. I've worked along side parents, mentors, and professors as I've been taught myself. Everything from little ones and youth give great insight and wisdom if given in the spirit of love.
This is a perfect balance I work for in all aspects of my life, both learning and teaching. However, I often,if not always fall short.
 Its a good thing I crave wisdom and knowledge. I've found the perfect example of teaching through the life of Jesus Christ.
While I know not everyone is a believer in his divinity, it is that very characteristic that makes his teaching...well perfect.
Let's look at the 'woman taken in sin': In this story we are given a wide variety of learners all in one scenario. 1-Observers in general with some cultural and religious background.
2-Hierarchy of the Hebrew faith (pharisees)
3-Disciples, these were just believers who felt of The Savior's love and believed him
4-Apostles, the actual leaders and prophesiers of Christ
5-The sinner
Each of these people required a different lesson. Christ needed to speak to each of their needs, wants desires and what was best for them. He had to do it without passing judgment. Without condemnation and without anger or regret.
What did he do?
Not much. He listened carefully. Discerned their intent. wrote in the dirt as he comprehended and then gave advice and instruction.
"Ye without sin cast the first stone." it was directed at only those who were without sin. Every person judged them self on that front.
After each had cast their own experience into the forum and felt their own responsibility, they left the woman alone.
The Savior then gave her perfect instruction, just what she needed. An absence of condemnation. A fullness of love. An instruction to do better. He didn't forgive her; she didn't ask for forgiveness. He didn't tell her she was just doing the best she could, he didn't value her contribution to life so little. He loved her, accepted her and never let her doubt it.
"Go thy way and sin no more."
I am not that good. Not with my family. Not with my neighbors and especially not with myself. Just as The Savior did, I will keep teaching and learning from The Master as I beg him to teach me!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I can't!

 Words of wisdom have always caught my attention. I've been memorizing and collecting phrases and quotes since I was a young girl. My Grandmother lived next door to me and I grew up in her kitchen and backyard. I listened to every word she said, even though she didn't always know it. Her words rang in my ears through out my growing up. Even today, my amazing Grandmother has been gone from this world for over six years, but I still hear her voice.
"Never trust a Skinny cook."
"Youth is about the future. Age is about the past. Death is where Eternity makes them the same thing."
"Use it up, wear it out. make it do, or do without!"
"The family cans and the family bottles, but this family doesn't know how to can't."
My dad had a ton of quotes too. My mom calls them "Lynnism" because his name was Lynn. Perhaps because I was surrounded by basic but brilliant wisdom, I've always searched it out. I may never leave my kids a fortune or a mansion after I'm gone...but I would like to leave them portions of my life that I will take with me forever. Parts they can take with them as well.     "Twelve elephants for a dime is only a good deal if you need twelve elephants and you have a dime."
"A person all wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package."
"It will all work out in the end. If it hasn't worked out yet, then its not the end."
and my new favorite..."Live forever. If you can't do that, die trying!" 
They remind me of the basics of my life that have gotten me through, kept me alive and brought me joy. Everyday must be lived as if you'll be hear forever. If you're sure you won't, don't curl in a corner, protect your head and stay low until you die. Do everything you can to live life as full and complete as possible. Give it everything you've got and die trying!
There are few things in life that are worth time, money and energy. Make sure you have the ones you need before you give them up for things you don't need.
I know right now, it seems like the world is going to overcome your heart and mind. It is temporary. Keep fighting, its not over yet.
The best of all I think is a basic quote from a song I heard after 9/11. Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us, and the greatest is love!
Keep smiling, never stop fighting and Love with all you've got, even when you're sure you can't.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Writing Blind: About The Author

Writing Blind: About The Author: Traci McDonald- The Heart of Suspense. Falling in love is the greatest risk of all! A  dream is a fragile thing. It is a wisp of smoke th. Once again, I'm working on my novels and my lack of technological prowess has gotten in my way. I guess its a good thing to screw up on your own blog, but its a bit embarrassing to post the blog. Maybe God just wants me to learn a little humility. I hate it when I start thinking I can do this computer thing alone. Have fun with my poor computer skills and go check out my author page if you want. Thanks for your patience and support. God knows I need them both!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Potty Training Mommy

I was reminded by a friend recently of my escapades with my boys when they were young. We adopted our oldest from Western Africa at the same time my middle son was 3 years old.
Our oldest turned four years old the day after we brought him home from Sierra Leone. He is 10 and 1/2 months older than my middle son, which makes for good friendships and heated competitions. Both of these were not good environments for potty training.
Why was I potty training a three or four year old?'s the story.
My son Zack was mostly trained. He struggled with being able to poop and tell when he had to go. My Oldest was potty trained when he arrived from Africa. In the orphanage, he'd been trained to go in a pot along the wall of the building where they squatted. After the trauma of being taken from everything he'd known to a world where he saw more white people than anything else, he was a little freaked out. He spoke only broken English, had night terrors and didn't attach in any way with his new family. Hence, the attention he was getting, clashed with potty training efforts with the three year old and he regressed. My three year old was curious but timid of the new black kid. The fear and unease on both their parts made any kind of control over their bodies non existent. My oldest, having lived on garbage, gruel, french fries and coke also had digestive issues. Mango's were the only food we could get him to eat for a long time and he smelled horrible.
So, now there are two grown boys who can't use the potty, one blind mommy who can't find the problems until the stench takes over and not enough clean clothes or underwear to keep up.
Frustrated, overwhelmed and exhausted, I read every potty training book or blog I could find. Use rewards, get a potty doll, give potty treats, have them teach each other. The list goes on and on. There is no list for a traumatized orphan, a displaced middle child and their blind mother to follow.
Weeks and months passed where I wrestled with poopy boys, fighting siblings along with traumatized kids while making no progress. Finally, at the end of my proverbial pampers, I took them both out to the front yard. It was November and a bit chilly in St. George Utah, but there was enough sunlight to ensure no one would freeze to death.
I stripped them both down, Had them hold their clothes and sprayed everybody down with the garden hose They of course screamed, ran from the water and chased each other and me around until the problem was solved. After two or three weeks of cleaning them up this way, bonding over the outdoor showers and laughing instead of pulling my hair out, My middle son figured it out. He still had problems while he was adjusting and still struggled but the outdoor showers stopped. My oldest, however wanted the attention, or the trials, its hard to tell with him, but he didn't stop.
Until one day when my husband looked him in the eye, shook him a little and said, "Stop It!" He did.
I had similar struggles with my youngest years later. I think there is something about boys. Or maybe just boys of blind moms. I don't know. The outdoor showers resumed for a while and my husband would call me on the phone from work to check on me.
"How are you doing?" he'd ask. "Are the kids potty training you?"
"Potty training me?" I was shocked. How did he even know about the potty problems."I had some trouble today. How do you know?"
"Two or three people called me at work to say they saw you in the yard hosing off naked boys."
Maybe the hosing off helped with the potty training? Who knows? I know it helped me and my kids to laugh, love and bond with each other and it kept me sane. Thanks boys! I love you!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Roots and Wings

Here in my corner of the world, we find ourselves between birthdays. Our Nations, in 1776 and our State's in 1847. Both are celebrated with pancake breakfasts, parades and fireworks. Both are done in recognition of our God given right, as well as privilege, to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
Somewhere in there we should have been promised an inalienable right to be given those things. A gift from the powers that be ensured all of us those marvelous things simply because we live in The United States of America. For we Utahans, it is a promise that under the rights and privileges of The USA, we can believe, practice and worship in the way we desire. Again, because we have the right to do so.
Freedom to think, act and behave the way we feel is correct is our right. Those are the wings afforded to us for obeying the laws, paying our taxes, not infringing on others rights and supporting their rights as well.
The basis of all of it though, is the unalienable right to pursue our freedom.
Life is not guaranteed because we live. Being strong, healthy, active, or  lazy is a life style choice.  It is only the right to breathe, eat, and have a heart beat. Above and beyond those basics, we pursue good food, work, driving, singing, performing, writing, speaking...the list goes on and on.
Liberty is a given. The ability to choose your thoughts, words, actions and feelings is a God given right. What you do with those thoughts and other rights will have a direct impact on your happiness. Your thoughts can lift or destroy. It is your right to decide. Feelings will bring you to the up most high or the most downcast low. The circumstance doesn't mandate this, you do.
Happiness, above all other things, is an ethereal concept found inside each individual. It cannot be purchased, given, taken away, or confiscated by another. It must be pursued with all might and mind. It is the root of the rights God himself has bequeathed you with.
Happiness, along with life and liberty root us to the God who created this world, this nation, this humanity and the very things that allow us freedom. All humans possess the rights God has given each of us. Politics, parties and governments along with religions, individuals, and groups will threaten them.
Those things will never separate you from the God who gave you life. The One who gifted you the freedom to choose to be free inside your heart. A bounty of happiness awaiting your efforts to pursue and claim it.
While you soar among the freedom and limitless bounds of your inheritance, grasp tightly the roots which ground you to the God who blessed you with all things whatsoever The Father hath! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Should I?

Of all the questions life presents on a daily or even minute-by-minute basis, I find myself asking more and more often...Do you want to?
This question is often asked both of me and by me. Have we become a society so self indulgent that what we want is the most important or even singular motivating factor driving our choices?
My teenagers would answer; absolutely, yes. social groups, support systems and media would answer the same way. One young woman assured me. "God loves me and wants me to be happy. If I do what makes me happy, then it makes him happy too and all the world is right." This was closely followed by an explanation of how her therapist and life coach had explained the principal to her and now she was always happy and never felt guilty. One of the complaints of many individuals about the practice of religion is they're tired of being made to feel guilt for their choices. Forgetting that each of us choose our feelings without any controlling factor involved.God is not your butler, Santa Clause or your therapist.  No president, dictator, leader or divine being 'makes' us feel anything. So, why then do we easily claim pride for our successes but blame others for our defeats?
I asked my husband the other day; "Do you want to go to the store? I need to get milk, bread and cereal for the kids." He rolled his eyes and answered "No."
"No, were not buying food for the kids?"
He pulled his keys from his pocket and took my hand. "No, I don't want to go."
On our way to the grocery store, I realized I'd been asking him the wrong question for years. He did what should be done not what he wanted to do. The measure of a true humanitarian, a real man or woman and a truly Christ-like individual isn't in doing what they want to do. Even The Savior said "Father if thou wilt, remove this cup from me. Not my will but thine be done." (Luke 22:42)
His perfection was in his willingness to do what needed to be done. The wanting wasn't a problem. Is it for us? Does anyone ever ask what we should do instead of what we want? Do we require it of ourselves? Much of my life has been spent doing what needed to be done, not because I possess the will to do it, but because God has given me circumstances that require me to either do what needs to be done or die. Hopefully, you are not as stubborn as I am. Hopefully you listen to the gentle promptings of your God and ask Should I?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The chambers of Her Heart

Because today is Mother's Day, I've been thinking about the many women in the world who are mothers. Not as much about the hard working, self sacrificing, give their all moms that I know, love, associate with and admire, but the women who've done all of that in my life and don't share my name or DNA.
If we could measure the love a woman has for her children it would be the closest thing we could come to as a measurement for infinity. No beginning and no end. We can't even put a numerical or verbal description on it that would be more than empty. Imagine the heart of a mother who has buried a child. That child isn't gone. they don't stop loving them., They couldn't even if it would make the pain easier to handle. It is a deeply spiritual place inside of a woman that doesn't have physical, time or space boundaries. It is the best description of God I can imagine. Eternal, overwhelming, constant. Bottomless, not containable, larger than the body who possesses it and more extensive than the parts and pieces could ever add up to on their own. For a woman such as this to give me a part of that love devastates me. A chamber of her immeasurable heart opened to me. Whether I am her daughter, her neighbor, her friend, her niece, her granddaughter, her co-worker,, her patient, a reminder of what she's lost or a promise of what will be some day. That faith, acceptance, love and warmth can only be equaled by my Savior, Jesus Christ. We are imperfect both as humans and as parents, but we are good enough for God to give us the privilege of taking care of his children. There is no greater compliment.
My mother, my grandmothers, my aunts, and the women who have changed me, led me, loved me and believed in me give me everything I need to find my way home to God while making it so I love being here on earth. My body doesn't like me very much, but thanks to these women, my body is a mere part of the woman, the mother, the friend and the sister I am. I thank all of you for your immeasurable gifts. Happy Mother's Day can not express the grains of eternity you have planted in my soul. It'll have to be enough for now.
I love you, Grandma, Nana, Mom, Terese, Caroline, Marjean, Beverly, Mary Margaret  Delpha, Teresa, Allicia and All of the rest of you. Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Riches, Powers, and Lives Eternal

Today is the Second Anniversary of my Pancreas transplant. Which also means it's the second anniversary of my donor's death. I've been thinking a lot about him over the last few days. His birthday was on Friday. I read a post about mental illness his Fiance posted and I read through all of the posts his family made about the new baby his brother and sister-in-law named after him. Every day I think about him. If the weather is warm would he be out on his motorcycle? If my kids are busy with work, soccer and school, did he ever have too much to do and not enough time to do it? Did he know it would be the last time he hugged his mom, talked to his dad or kissed his fiance? If I spend too much time focusing on what he's missing, it overwhelms me what I have because of him. I can only imagine the tears and grief his family still experiences at his loss.
In my religious beliefs, there is a firm understanding of the after life. Parts of it I've experienced through my own health problems, my father's death and the loss of my eye sight. You'd be amazed what things beyond this world a blind person can see. As I was thinking of Colby a few days ago I found a quote by Pres, Brigham Young where he spoke to the survivor's of losses of children, in particular. He said;  The hundreds of spirits beyond the veil who've been touched, taught and influenced by the presence of your missed loved one would astound you. Those beings will thank you for the pain and suffering you went through as the bereaved to bless their progression on the other side."
This struck especially close to me because I know that my donor gave 200 bodies here on earth his own body parts  to help all of them. I imagine his spiritual influence on people he loves is even more powerful. While the pain, sorrow and emptiness must be survived by the living, when we are all together again and see what remarkable work our lost loved ones did for God, our moments of suffering will have been worth it. God promises us riches, powers and lives eternal when we obey Him and serve Him here on earth. Lives eternal are not only their life but the lives of loved ones, brothers, sisters, and those people who have passed to the other realm and need our lost loved ones more than we do.
I can't imagine the amount of love our God must have to take one and leave another and know which will be better, but I can imagine a smaller scene that makes sense to me.
If God were to come to me and ask me to leave behind my kids and my husband to save them all in the end, I wouldn't even have to think about it. I'd go immediately.
There isn't enough political, horse, or wealth power in this little world to do that. God has all the power necessary to bring about miracles. Why would we waste time on anything else?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Comfort Retards Growth

In a lush and verdant garden flowers bloomed. Trees danced their broad leaves in the breeze. Soft blades of thick grass tickled the toes. The Gardner, admiring his work, took a single seed from his pocket.
Digging deep into the soil, he gently lay the seed down. Dirt, potting soil, fertilizer and compost soon filled the seeds bed. A watering can moistened the soil and  the Gardiner waited.
As the sun bore down, the seed bed started to dry out. The Gardner, tending to his other plants, noticed the parched ground.With  watering can in his hand, he thought a loud.
"The sun is too hot, it will make the seed's growth too difficult." His shirt became shade. "The soil is too heavy, water can't reach the tiny seed."
Shovel fulls of ground were removed as the Gardner continued to worry. "This seed needs more air, I shall not cover him or limit his experience. I will bring him water, food, carry him to the greenhouse each night so he won't freeze and lather him with words and expressions of approval. My kindness will allow the seed to feel love. He will be my most beautiful creation ever."
"A wise old neighbor peered through his fence at the Gardner's work. His wrinkled brow furrowed as he listened. Shaking his head, the old neighbor walked away., Each day he watched as the Gardner tended the seed. Each day, the old man frowned and wondered.
Finally after 3 weeks, the neighbor called through the fence. "Good neighbor, what are you growing?"
"It is my most beautiful plant," he responded.
"I see no plant," the neighbor replied. "You have a seed, covered in moss. An empty hole and your garden is dying. I ask again, what are you growing?"
The Gardner glanced around his verdant landscape. Brittle leaves, dying vines, drooping petals and dead grass stared back. His seed, his most beautiful creation yet, sat in a muddy hole, rotting and ruined. As he sobbed into his mud caked hands, the neighbors voice returned. "Comfort retards growth. Yours, the garden's, and the seed's."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Make A Leap!

Yesterday was the culmination of one-fourth of a day for the last four years in Leap Day. It is an extra day none of us really plan for. At my house, its an extra day on the pay period for work. Its an extra day to get things done or its an extra day to not have to plan for.
Is it really?
We've been collecting the time every day. Are we accountable for the seconds and moments that don't seem important because its just a little bit. I think of how many times one of my kids has said, "Hey mom." and my response has been, "just a second..."
How many seconds have passed me by? Moments when I could've been spending time, or money, or effort on my most important things?
Yesterday, because it was the day after my birthday, my husband spent his precious moments with me!
He took the day off of work. We sat in the back yard and soaked up the sun. We lay in bed together, because it was warm. We spent an hour with a good friend of mine and his family, because we could. We looked for my sister-in-law's dog. We visited my favorite neighbor and her new baby and we ate pizza with my mom and step dad. It was awesome!
It wasn't the most exciting thing out was better. It was a leap for me to just relax and be with the people I love.
Sometimes I get so worked up and worried about doing all the right things, being all the right places and keeping everyone moving that i lose my ability to feel the pure pleasure the world has to offer.
Sunshine after a cold winter. Friends and family who love us no matter what. the peace and beauty of everything God has created and given to us mere mortals. Life can be hard when we're running around like ants on a hot skillet. For one day, every four years, take a leap and just enjoy your blessings and love the world around you.
Or better yet...don't wait for one day a long time off. Do it today, for just a moment. Realize how good you have it and how blessed you are today!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Grief and Sorrow Forever?

While reading a book last night, I fell apart...again. The story was about three children who are facing their father's impending death due to cancer. Perhaps it was because the writer was talented. Perhaps its because I'm a few weeks short of the birthday that will indicate that I've lived longer than my dad ever did. More likely though, its because after all this time, I still grieve.
I grieve the Grandfather I know he would have been. I mourn the loss of his influence in my life. I sorrow for the moments with my kids and my family that I know we can't share with him. I should be over it by now. I should be able to let go of the pain and just bask in the memories. After all, he's been gone far longer than he lived in my life. I've fought with this concept for years, until my grandmother died.
She was 96 years old, was in a care facility and had over 121 kids, grand-kids, great grand kids and even great, great grand-kids. She was loved, admired and celebrated for being the amazing woman she truly was. Yet, I stood beside her casket, held her cold, empty hand and cried.
My uncle Kendall was there with his wife and I apologized for falling apart. "I know she's better off with her husband, kids and her family in heaven. Its selfish for me to feel so much pain when I know she is happy and has been welcomed home with love and honor."
My uncle quoted a scripture to me from Doctrine and Covenants section 49 in which he told me that tears are supposed to be shed for those we love. Its a measure of how much we loved them. I've pondered this idea for some time as my mother-in-law passed away, a good friend who was like a father to me passed and even as I have shed many a tear for neighbors and friends who grieve the loss of their loved ones. Shouldn't it be easier when they are old? Shouldn't we be happy for our little ones who've gone home to live in love and peace with God? Shouldn't our belief in eternity and forever heal our sorrows?
The answer is no.
While its true that grief is not a measure of love, its also true that love lasts forever. Its the only thing that does. If you loved someone then it never ends. It doesn't diminish with the appropriate amount of time. It doesn't lessen as you live longer and their life span was but a mere moment. The breadth and depth of your love cannot be measured in time, so why would your sorrow?
Hope, laughter, memories and other loves will find places in your broken heart, but it will remain broken. Healing, scarred, battered, wounded but broken.
Hearts aren't like concrete or glass. Once broken they become weaker and more fragile.  While you're healing and hurting your heart will shrivel, ache, and feel like it may kill you...healing hurts. Your heart will knit itself back together. It will be stronger in the long run and bigger for the space it has made for your love.
Feel it, embrace it and welcome the eternal love that will never end. The tears will come. Often and painful because your love is immeasurable. Until you and the ones you love are back together again, your love will be constant and distant with out a physical presence to assure you that the pain and sorrow will not last forever. I never expect to 'get over' my father's death. I will never 'get over' how much I love him.  It has become a bitter sweet reminder of what I miss and what awaits me in a beautiful future. If I can just be patient and believe that my love is not lost on nothingness. Its a collection of everything I'll give to my Dad, my kids, my family and friends. I'll take the grief and sorrow...he was worth loving! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What Luck!

My neighbor slid off his roof and shattered his ankle. "What a blessing," I heard his wife say on more than one occasion.
I'm sure when he awoke with a carbon fiber rod drilled through his heel to reset the bones, neither he nor his wife thought it was a blessing.
The 17 year old girl who lives up the street from me, swerved off the road, landed in a ditch and blew her tire. "That was lucky," her Dad told me as he pried the shredded wheel away from the bent rim. The restitution she had to do for missing school that day didn't seem much like luck to her.
Twenty years ago, I went to Oakland California to visit the LDS temple there. While I was inside, my right eye filled up with blood. Six months later that eye was being removed from my head. I was on a constant morphine drip for weeks. The other eye was burned with lasers and permanently scarred. From that point on...I was blind.
That wasn't the end though. I lost more of my sight to a cataract and finally all of it to glaucoma.
I will never drive again, see my children's faces, or look into my husband's beautiful blue eyes. I'll never enjoy another sunset, see a baby's smile, or look in the mirror. What Luck!
All those years ago, I couldn't always appreciate what a blessing blindness was going to be. Things that aren't important don't distract me. Clothes, hair, fancy cars, pretty houses. The list is unending. I hear laughter. I feel love. I bask in the touch of other people. I absorb friendship, conversation and affection like its water in the desert.
My husband pointed out to me. If I hadn't gone blind. I couldn't have qualified for the insurance coverage I needed to spend weeks in the hospital with premature babies. I wouldn't have had the financial ability to get either my pancreas or kidney transplants and I'd probably be dead by now. All of the gifts and blessings in my life have stemmed from what most people think of as tragedy. Misfortune is simply God working miracles and humans being impatient.
My neighbor didn't break his neck when he fell off that roof. His wife recognized that she could have been a widow instead of a nurse for a few weeks. What a blessing!
The teenager up the street from me, ended up a little inconvenienced, instead of splattered across the highway because she crashed into that ditch instead of rolling the car the opposite direction. Her Dad knew a spoiled tire was nothing compared to a lost daughter. What Luck!
Life is hard. Its also full of joy, people who love you and more beauty than broken. The ability to see the good in the midst of all the darkness is a blessing. If the darkness is too thick? If the doubt weighs you down? Imagine what misery would await you if you weren't so lucky.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Can You Stimulate Happiness?

Perhaps because the shimmer and shine of the holidays is wearing off, my kids are starting to feel the after effects of the New Year. Post Party blues, is common this time of year. The year has started again and it feels in many ways like starting over. This might be a good thing if you're looking forward to an increase in job opportunity, fame, fortune or just a better lifestyle. For many though it starts over the amount of money which has to be paid for co-pay's and deductibles on insurance. It starts over the amount of your escrow being higher if it was too low and it begins again the planning, purchasing and saving for vacations, trips and birthdays that must be figured into budgets. Many details like these can bring on frustration or depression. This is the point where you're encouraged to see the glass as 'half full' not 'half empty'.
How does one do that? Stimulate your attitude toward happiness, when there is much to be depressed about?
That's the problem, right there. You can't stimulate happiness.
Happiness is a state of mind which translates into a state of being. Yes, you can stimulate the mind toward pleasure or pain...but neither of those is happiness or a lack of it. Pleasure is a temporary state that once the stimulation is absent, the consequence takes up the slack. Often we stimulate ourselves toward pleasure to escape pain, but both are temporary states. What do you feel when you are neither happy nor unhappy? If someone gives you a cupcake, does it stimulate happiness or pleasure? If someone offers you a back rub does it stimulate happiness or pleasure? Only you can know. If your state of being is calm, peaceful, kind and positive then the cupcake or the back rub are stimulants toward pleasure. If your state of being is anger, frustration, hatred, or fear then those same things can stimulate you temporarily toward pain or pleasure. After the frosting is all licked away and your back is holding up your head again...Are you happy?
This is why we get addicted to pleasure seeking activities: Food, shopping, extreme sports, tattoos, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate. Whatever it is, it doesn't bring happiness, just pleasure or pain.
My son showed me the truth about this when I asked What he felt, once the pleasure was gone. "Nothing," he said. "I'm just bored."
"Would you be more likely to help someone else with something if you had pleasure in your life?"
"No, doing work will make my pain worse and take away from my pleasure."
He's a teenager with a common understanding of what happiness is. How sad, though. The reason the world is struggling is because we are all looking for happiness and finding only temporary ways to stimulate pain or pleasure. Money, fame, facebook friends, notoriety...the list goes on and on. We disguise it as caring about others, but if we are happy, then our love, kindness, concern and goodwill for other people should be our state of being. It isn't stimulated or squashed by anyone else. It is work, to see others as we see ourselves. To care about everyone else as much as you care about yourself. To hold back our own tendency to judge because we are not responsible for our state of happiness. Instead, we are frustrated by others who don't stimulate us properly.
I promise you I have failed to conquer this ideal as well. I'm learning to let my inner state of being have more control. I believe you can be stimulated with things that bring pleasure and happiness by participating  in activities and habits that have positive consequences. However, you must seek happiness, not stimulation and its a challenge to see the difference. "I'm grateful to my son who explained it so clearly. It means that you seek true happiness instead of simply what you want. Discovering true happiness is what all of us want in the long run. Don't be afraid to feel what's inside of you once the stimulus has worn off and you're alone with your thoughts and feelings. Without stimuli, without pleasure or pain. Just you, your Father-in-Heaven and the happiness knowing Him and being loved by Him brings. Its the only happiness there is!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Begin Again...

Near the end of last year my posts began to drift did I. I wrote of my experience in the hospital with the infection and bleeding, but I didn't follow up. It is rarely in my capacity to survive the health issues of my life and retain the ability to write or even talk about them while its happening. As this trauma finished, another was beginning and I've only recovered my strength and my need to write about it recently. Perhaps its because, while I was enduring it, my priorities shifted and I saw the important things in my life a new way. Perhaps because I realized that sometimes you must do the thing you can do in the moment you can do it, trusting God and love to cover the details of life.
Five weeks ago, my husband and I went to the I.V. infusion clinic to keep me from dying. I weighed 90 pounds and was hanging onto the little strength I had left when I went in. It started as a bad reaction to new medication and ended with my last fingers of hope hanging on for one more day. It is what I needed to stay alive, one more time to take care of my boys. One more time to read with my son. One more time to kiss then goodnight. One more time to wait for them to come home from school.
I awoke each morning, feeling as though I would throw up. I got them going, made them breakfast, packed their back packs and sent them off to school. Then I'd collapse. I'd throw up, lie in my bed, try to finish the publication of my book and pray...a lot.
That was back in the beginning of October and lasted until Thanksgiving. Each day I grew weaker and thinner. My friends and neighbors fed my family, took me to the doctor, literally carried me where I needed to be and I kept going. When the nausea turned to vomiting and then starvation, my husband would prop me up in the shower, tuck me into my bed when I tried to do too much and took care of the family. The last time I threw up, I'd just had IV fluids for the third time and I decided I would get them every day until we could figure out what was happening to my body. I kissed my kids that day, so grateful that I still could. I curled into my husband's warmth that night, satisfied to know I could go on, if for only one day at a time.
Never did I see things more clearly. It didn't matter. All of the goals I made for myself. The lists of jobs, tasks, busyness that I crowded my life with. None of them were important. The only things that mattered breathed just a room away from mine. The only voices that penetrated the darkness were the ones I treasured. I no longer cared how many likes I had on facebook. It wasn't important how many books were sold, essays written or words inscribed. What mattered was the people. The friends that cared and sent cards, letters, messages, acts of kindness and words of encouragement. The touch of my husbands arms as he held me. The 'goodnight mom's that I treasured and the love and peace I had from somewhere besides myself.
The Friday before Thanksgiving I awoke and it was over. The nausea, the sickness, the drain on every bodily resource I had. It was all gone.
I was thin, exhausted, still unable to eat much, but whatever it was that stole my breath that two months, disappeared. The miracle was not the absence of the ailment though, it was the presence of a new understanding.
There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind that  make a difference in a big way, either for good or ill, with large acts in front of congress, best selling works, fame and notoriety. Then there are the other kind. The kind who make a difference to the individuals who touch their lives and then touch someone else. Both kind of people change the world, just in vastly different ways. I've encounter both and I love and appreciate the goodness, kindness and giving nature of the two.I realized though,  The influence I have will extend only as far as I love, touch and serve others. I don't know what my role in this world is. I hate to diminish the capability of either because I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I can not and will not diminish the mark each of my friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, and leaders have left on my life. I hope to love and spread the pure love of Christ in the best way I can. Because it is truly LOVE that fills our lungs, makes our hearts beat and keeps us alive.